Wily old fox where are you now?
I’ve seen where you’ve been
And the mess on the green
That you’ve kindly left there for me to clean.
It was Sunday morning and I went for a walk. I had put on my coat for it didn’t seem that warm when I left the house. About half-way through I had to remove it and tie it around my waist I was so hot. Even down along the seafront it was warm but there was a slight breeze which made the humid air more comfortable to be in. I could hear the sound of voices in the distance toward the town centre as Saturday night revellers walked about in their drunken stupor. Noise travels far in the quiet hours. I keep well away from the town centre on certain days like Saturday and Sunday mornings for that reason. I remember once returning home after an early morning run to see a guy lying on his back in the middle of our street and fast asleep! Fortunately for him we live in a quiet street. Alcohol has that effect on people who drink too much of it and he was one of them. Usually when out walking I might come across a cat or two, a few rabbits and of course sea birds and water fowl. Once in a while I will see a fox who has usually seen me first and has dashed away to hide somewhere. We have lots of urban foxes though we are not that far from open countryside where there are probably more. Even down along the seafront among the sand dunes foxes can be seen occasionally but wily as foxes are sometimes they can be right under our noses and remain hidden. On my return home I wanted to water the garden but left it until it was daylight. As I looked upon the lawn I could see three little presents the fox had left for me to clean away. One or two very small holes had been left too! Now I have seen a fox on several occasions walking along the top of the boundary brick wall but never have I seen one actually in the garden. E tells me she has seen foxes on the wall too but normally in the evening when it is dark. As we don’t usually spend time out in the garden when it is dark we don’t get to see what goes on. Because the tail end of the garden belonging to the neighbour over the rear wall is in such disarray a family of foxes could be living there without their knowledge. I do hope not for as much as I like foxes I don’t want to be clearing up after them night after night or morning after morning.
On Monday evening I set my alarm to rise early on Tuesday morning and went to bed but not feeling as tired as I might. I use my mobile phones’ alarm feature having not had an alarm clock for many years. I didn’t invest in a new clock when the old one gave up the ghost because by then I had a mobile phone.
Anyway I found it very difficult to get to sleep even though I had been busy during the day but did manage a few though interrupted hours. As usual for me I awoke fifteen minutes before the alarm was due to go off so I cancelled the alarm and arose shortly afterward. I didn’t fall into the trap of going back to sleep because it was prayer time and I had to be up anyway. I would be taking the van in for its MOT Test at eight-thirty. Again, as is usual for me I arrived fifteen minutes beforehand. I had asked E if she would pick me up soon after eight-thirty but on my arrival I was informed that I could wait as they would have the test completed within the hour. I phoned E to let her know she could remain at home. It was just as well I phoned when I did because she was about to exit the front door. The van passed the examination and I was soon driving back home. Normally I would have gone for a walk but decided to take a break instead. I had other things to do anyway. In the afternoon I spent some time dismantling an alarm unit I had manufactured many years ago in order to salvage some of its internal components. I had been thinking of getting to grips with the garage door project to automatically switch on the light (see older posts). Having finally come up with a practical solution I needed to source the components. By late afternoon I took a break from that and watched some television, that is I watched a program on BBC iPlayer which I had previously missed. About three-quarters of the way through E came downstairs in a bit of a panic and asked if I could go next door with her. Something had happened regarding our neighbour and my first instinct was that she was in desperate need of help. She has been suffering with emphysema for a couple of years and has to use an oxygen bottle several times during the day. She is very poorly. We were there in minutes. Our neighbour was in a state of panic too and she could hardly breathe. As we have a key to her house door we were able to enter without her having to let us in. She was immensely distraught. We immediately set about calming her down and getting her to use the oxygen cylinder. After a few minutes we were able to find out what the problem was. She struggled to tell us that she had found her dog had died two hours earlier and she hadn’t noticed. Her son had already taken the animal to the local vet. Rigour mortise had already set in. He arrived back home a half-hour later and we chatted a while before we returned home. Thankfully this time our neighbour was alright.
It may be the end of the year, the last few days, I write this on 28th, but life doesn’t stop. Creatures of habit like me continue on as normal. A day is a day just like any other so I do pretty much the same as I do at any time throughout the year. I have been working on a very small plot in the garden and wanted to add some natural stone as I had done in the much larger plot we call the west bed. That simply means the bed is on the western side of the garden. This one however is on the opposite side. I had over the months gathered many stones from the beach to cover that plot and recently collected more to put in this one too but a small bucket-full is far from enough as you can see….(click on image to magnify)
They barely cover the soil around the plant, the new fan palm at the end of the flowerbed. I did realise I would need more but the idea is not to fully cover the soil as there will be some small flowering plants placed there later. Maybe another bucket of stones will be enough. On my morning walk on Thursday (28) I collected enough to half-fill a bucket so it shouldn’t take long to collect what I want. These stones I might add are what were left behind after the construction of the sea defence wall many years ago. The construction company I suppose couldn’t be bothered to remove them else were unable to remove them all. Already I have been digging out some montbretia plants from the main flowerbed in the garden on the north side. They are the ones I missed when I cleared them from the bed at the beginning of the year along with bluebells. I have no doubts I shall be digging more out as the new year begins. It isn’t that I don’t like the flowers, it’s just that they grow like weeds and want to take over the garden! E and I have been putting seeds out on the bird table and some ‘fat balls’ in the feeder but it isn’t just the birds who eat them, we have a small family of grey squirrels who like them too. They eat the fat balls through the wire cage and the birds peck them in turn. A few days ago I made some alterations to the bird table in order to keep the larger birds such as pigeons, jackdaws and gulls from feeding there and leaving nothing for the many smaller birds such as tits, wagtails, and the robin we get here. We do put seed and other food on the grass to accommodate the larger birds. However, the squirrels can and do climb the pole to reach the table and can still enter the protected table to feed. This picture was taken before I altered the access but as I said, they can still gain entry which is fine.
There have been many incidences of finding cat stools in our rear garden over the years. Having these nocturnal visitors is somewhat of a nuisance as far as I am concerned. It isn’t so much the visitor, it’s what they leave in their wake and the fact that I have to clean up after them. Cats however like to bury their waste deposits which is even worse and for two reasons. Firstly, unless I have noticed the burial there is always the possibility that I could dig it up by accident then have to clean up the mess. Secondly, cats don’t give a hoot where they dig up the ground and often leave more of a mess in spreading soil all over the place. I am glad to say that nocturnal visits by cats has become, at least for the time being, less frequent. A few mornings ago I noticed many very small patches of grass had been dug up on the lawn and a couple of large black stools lying on the grass. Now I know cats don’t usually dig up lawns, they prefer digging in soil as it is easier. Typical of cats to be that lazy. I wondered what animal or bird could be responsible. Our garden is visited by a variety of birds, some of which could have been responsible for digging up the lawn, Jackdaws for example. They dig for moss to line their nests and moss is something our lawn has. I have been treating the lawn for that reason lately. However, late Summer or early Autumn isn’t the nesting season but then I thought they may have been digging for worms in the moist ground. It is possible but I have doubts about that. The reason I say that is the digging happens at night and apart from the owls in the area, all other birds would be asleep. So although the digging could still have been done by birds I have doubts about it. Now I also know that squirrels like to bury some of their food, storing it for harder times in the Winter but again I don’t think squirrels would be out and about when it is dark. They like their sleep just as we do and besides, they would be prey to any of the owls we hear after nightfall. Mice I think we can rule out, they just don’t dig holes in grass, especially at night! There is only one other possibility, foxes. We do have foxes hereabouts, we have seen them and heard them, oft-times in the night. One morning recently and still while it was dark, I happened to be looking out of my bedroom window which overlooks the rear garden and could just about see the outline of an animal on the garden wall. There was very little light but I could tell that it wasn’t a cat, unless it was a very large one. In seconds it moved behind the trees and I lost sight of it. I am almost certain it was a fox. I think therefore that our nocturnal visitor is almost certainly a fox. I looked around the garden perimeter searching for an access point. I know foxes can leap over high walls if they have the space to do it but they usually take easier routes. There are only a couple of places around the garden which make access that easier and they are both in the same corner of the garden, in the corner behind the holly tree in this picture…
This is a picture of the same corner taken some years ago during Winter…
On the other side of the wall where the lower wall meets the tall one behind the Sycamore tree left of centre the ground is high and just on the other side of the tree in the high wall there is a gap. At this time the ground on the other side of the wall is filled with fallen branches and access through it has been rendered almost impossible, even for cats. The small gap in the wall would only allow small animals through, even foxes and I suspected this was the access point. I have fitted some chicken wire over the gap and now have to see if my lawn will remain free of dung!
It was Saturday, the first of two warm and sunny days we were promised in the forecast and the first of two days to relax in. I woke up early and was soon having a shower and getting dressed to go downstairs for breakfast. I finished breakfast before nine o’clock and sat at my computer for half and hour as well as collating some information for my tax-return. A little bit at a time is the method I adopt when preparing my tax-return, it is easier that way for me because I don’t like sitting down for long periods as I probably would do if I did it all at once. In any case it only takes a few hours to get it prepared. I made myself a cup of coffee and went outside to sit on the bench in front of the patio…this one…
It faces east so gets full sunshine for a few hours each day. I could have sat on the patio but the artificial turf was wet with dew, as was the lawn too. Both dry pretty quickly once the sun gets high in the sky. Once I’d finished the coffee I became restless and couldn’t remain seated for long after. I took a stroll around the Mound (over on the right in the picture above). A single shoot caught my eye, it was another bluebell. Thinking it was near to the surface I tried to pull it out but no, it went deeper. Off I went for the kneeling stool and hand fork and I began to dig it out. Did I say single shoot? Never true most of the time with bluebells, there were several of them. I must have covered every cubic centimetre of the Mound by now but still they appear. Anyway that took a half-hour and I looked for something else to do. During my gardening renovations I have removed lots of small stones and some not so small, some natural stone and some man-made, bricks and the like. I had three large containers filled with them. This picture taken a few weeks earlier shows two of them nearly full.
I decided I would empty them out and separate the natural stone from the rubble. Some of the natural stone I placed around the base of the yucca plant shown in this picture at centre against the wall. It is immediately to the left of the buttress in case you can’t see it.
Now it was lunch time so I returned indoors. After lunch I returned to the patio and laid down on the now dry turf for an hour. I couldn’t stay there any longer but arose and went for a long walk in the sunshine. On my return home I spoke with my next door neighbour’s son for a time. They have a collie dog, a well-behaved animal that seldom barks, not like the two small dogs in a house nearby that sometimes bark incessantly for ages before someone finally stops them as happened when I went for a lie down on the patio earlier. My other next door neighbour also has a dog, a young setter that also seldom barks, or so I thought. I went into the house and made myself another coffee and sat out again on the patio. The setter started barking and did so for at least twenty minutes. I gave up and went indoors, actually to watch The Grand National annual steeplechase (horse race) on television. I have watched that race every year for as long as I can remember, well over sixty years. I returned outdoors to water the garden plants before finally going back inside for my evening meal. Peaceful, quiet and relaxing day? Well for most of the time.
Usually a term used to describe (in the dictionary – as a noun) ‘anactorinstanceofsurveyingoroftakingacomprehensiveviewof something’. I am applying it in reference to my amble around my garden: amble: a verb – ‘to go at a slow,easypace;stroll;saunter’, something I do quite often in the gardens throughout the year. I’ve grown to love and appreciate my gardens in the last few years whilst reflecting upon all the work I have done to get them to where they are now. My little surveys reveal the things I need to do to keep on top of things. Currently my thoughts are centred around spotting bluebells which have escaped my notice especially in the areas in which I have been working to remove them but also in other places they might appear. It was late on Saturday morning when I took a stroll along the path by the greenhouses and the first thing I noticed was a bluebell growing in the patch in front of the small greenhouse. I fetched the small garden fork and dug it out. Then I saw another and some more in the same general area. I have been expecting more to show as the weather gets warmer and I’ve not been disappointed! Having dug about thirty and removed them I thought that would be the end of it but no, there were some growing in the small plot nearby too. I removed them. I checked over the whole flowerbeds by the greenhouses to make sure I had removed all that had shown themselves. I spent a little time digging out a few more bluebells in the unfinished part of the corner plot where I have been working recently. I went indoors to prepare a meal. It was around three o’clock when I decided to take another amble around the garden and my keen eyes spotted a couple of bluebells in the flowerbed by the patio. I didn’t take any immediate action but noted where they were for the next time I would be working in the garden. I hadn’t much intention to work in the garden on the day because I wanted a rest from it and the weather forecast had been for rain anyway, though it didn’t rain until much later in the day. I spent a little time filling the seed dispenser for the birds as E seems to have forgotten to do it. On Friday morning I saw the strangest thing when looking out of the window into the rear garden. I saw ‘our’ little grey squirrel running along the top of the garden wall holding a slice of bread in its mouth! I never knew squirrels liked bread (and beer apparently) but I guess they will eat anything if hungry. We had been putting out nuts for them but hadn’t seen much of the squirrels lately due to the cold weather. Anyway the squirrel was being pursued by a jay who wanted a piece of the action but the squirrel was having none of it and kept out of the bird’s way. Funny what you see in the garden if you take the time to look.
I finally got up early on Wednesday after a few days of getting up so late I’d missed breakfast. It was a classical ‘cold and frosty morning’ with some thin fog hanging about but the day turned out sunny throughout. It was cold though and barely above zero degrees (Celsius) and in fact it never rose above three. I watched the blackbirds foraging for food around the spot I had left some grounded up nuts and monkey nuts (in their shells) for both birds and squirrels. At least my plant pots still had their loose bark on top intact after I had placed some sticks into them to prevent the birds from landing upon them. They had been tossing the bark all over the place beforehand. Still, they had shifted some leaves in the borders and on to the path in their rummaging for insects. The nuts I had left for the squirrels had all disappeared so I grabbed a handful and went into the garden and put them in the same spot. There was no sign of a squirrel during the time I watched from indoors but one then two magpies came down and started to sample the nuts. They had to break the shells first but that seemed to come naturally to them. I decided to return to the garden with a handful of loose seeds and spread them around whilst chasing off the magpies with their bounty. There were still enough nuts left for the squirrels should they put in an appearance. I returned again indoors and waited to see what would happen. It took some time but finally the blackbirds returned and ate their fill of seeds whilst a squirrel, probably the same one I have seen a few times recently, appeared and began eating the nuts before burying a few here and there in the border. The magpies didn’t return but a few jays or jackdaws came down to eat the seeds. They however left the nuts alone. I supposed they didn’t know there were nuts inside the shells or they were too lazy to try to break them open. The competition and rivalry can be intense when the weather is cold and the food is scarce. That’s why we like to put food out for them when the weather is cold. We haven’t used the bird table recently because of the high winds we’ve had. I want to make a slight alteration to the table in order to keep the larger birds from using it. They will be able to feed on the ground. Later in the day I watched the antics of the squirrel for quite some time as it wandered around.
Just after breakfast I received a call from a regular customer asking if I could investigate a faulty floodlight. She wasn’t sure if I was back at work after the holiday but I told her I was taking a three-week break. nevertheless I agreed to look at the problem on Friday to fall in-line with her schedule. So much for a three-week break, it’s nuts I tell you, nuts! Later I had just finished lunch when our next-door neighbour rang asking if I could repair a faulty hinge on her chest freezer. I was there five minutes later with my toolbox. A hinge pin had simply worked its way out so it was an easy thing to put it back. When I returned home I made myself a coffee and what do you know, the squirrel was back again and running about all over the place. By now it was getting slightly foggy again as the sun sank behind the houses. It had turned colder too.
Another lie-in on Tuesday saw me putting my feet on the floor at 10 o’clock and missing breakfast once again. That didn’t matter, what was more important was I had a good night’s sleep even though I didn’t actually rest easy until 5 o’clock! It’s all to do with a change in routine, not having to get up for work and not getting to bed at the right time take their toll. I have to make the effort to settle things down before I am available for work in a couple of week’s time. When I retire none of this will matter but will I like it? Probably not but I will wait until I have crossed that bridge. So I was late getting downstairs and a banana and fruit drink would have to do until lunch a couple of hours later. Gazing out of the kitchen window a grey squirrel caught my eye and I spent a little time watching what it did. It was scampering about in the border and on to the lawn until after a few minutes it went over to have a drink from the bucket beneath the greenhouse which collects rain water. It comes more useful in the warm months of the year when there is little or no rain. All we do is take out the leaves that have fallen into it. The squirrel then ran up the holly tree and ended up in the branches of the naked sycamore behind it. Just then two magpies perched themselves in the tree but one flew off immediately the squirrel appeared. The other one played cat-and-mouse with the squirrel who kept chasing it off the branches. The squirrel got its way and the magpie flew off, probably for a bit of peace. While all this was going on there were two male blackbirds making a mess on the path by the lamp-post at the other end of the garden. They were doing what many birds do when searching for food, shifting fallen leaves to see what is hiding beneath them. They seemed to be having some success at my expense for it would be me sweeping up the scattered leaves later. They do the same with the bark we have in a couple of plant pots, in fact later in the day I had to put the removed bark back into the pots and take some preventative measures against it happening again. It is usually the little ones which make the most mess. I inserted some plastic sticks in the pots to deter the birds from landing on them until the flowers have grown tall enough for them to be removed. The pots contain tulip and daffodil bulbs some of which have already started to emerge. I think there are a few snowdrops in them too. When the squirrel had moved away I went outside and placed some more nuts for it to gather on its return. They were gone by the end of the day. Before I returned indoors I attached the new flag and raised it to the top of the pole but it hung there quite limply as there was hardly any wind at all. Finally I went indoors and prepared another pan of chicken and vegetable stew enough for two meals. After lunch, an hour later, I decided to go for a walk. The day was far colder than the previous day but there was hardly and wind. I was surprised how many people were out doing the same despite the cold. E had been out all afternoon and didn’t return home until early evening. Apart from my walk I stayed at home all day.
…….plenty. That’s the way it goes in my profession. I received a late call on Sunday evening requesting my services on Monday morning. It was a small job but still appreciated and worth doing. I apply a minimum charge for any work but if the work is local and very small I might charge less. I did the work and was paid my minimum fee and was quite happy about that. I had no other work at all, even for the rest of the week but that is quite normal for I often get plenty of work later during the week. I got another call at about 10.45 asking if I could render some help with a loss of power in someone’s kitchen twelve miles away. I was also informed that some of the lights were not working. I drove across to investigate and was made most welcome by the middle-aged guy who stood by his garden gate awaiting my arrival. I set about tracing the fault on the power circuit which took some time but I eventually located the general area of the fault which seemed to be in the annex to the kitchen hidden behind the ceiling and false walling. It would take too long to search and repair that part of the installation and it would probably be easier to simply rewire it. We decided the best thing to do would be to disconnect the annex so that the supply could be re-instated in the kitchen but first I had to locate the cables supplying that section and eventually found them under the floor in the room above the kitchen. There was evidence of the presence of mice or a rat as some of the wiring had been gnawed almost through but those cables fed other circuits in the house. I repaired them before locating the cables supplying the annex which I duly cut and by-passed with a junction connector box. If the annex is to be rewired in the future the wiring will need to be reconnected at that point. I informed the guy that I wouldn’t be taking on that work as I feel it would be too much for me to do without some assistance. Unfortunately in the process to disconnecting the faulty wiring the gas boiler was also disconnected so I re-supplied it from one of the kitchen power sockets. However the boiler seemed to be faulty too! The guy arranged for a gas fitter to call and repair it. Finally I had finished reinstating power but had to change a fault lighting unit before I left. The original fitting couldn’t retain a lamp as it had been damaged by excessive heat over the years. What will happen regarding the annex wiring I have no idea but at the very least something must be done to eliminate the presence of rats which might gnaw through more of the wiring. The guy wasn’t alone in the house, he had a Philippino wife and two very young children by her and he also had his twenty-one year old son from his former wife living with them temporarily. Unfortunately his son had brought a young Pit Bull terrier with him that whined throughout the time I was there and the son wouldn’t take care of that. The guy tried to tell me that he was a little tired of his son’s attitude and only suffered him because he was his son. His son was out of work too but seemed to lack motivation to do much about it though he did write a personal CV on the computer and sent off a copy to apply for a post. As far as I am aware he didn’t have much in the way of qualifications according to what he had told me. I think the young man has his priorities all wrong. Anyway I had been there for over three hours and had missed my lunch yet again. I was back home around three-thirty but left off preparing anything until a little later. I sat out on the patio to enjoy the remainder of the afternoon in the sun. It wasn’t long before I received more work for the next day. I seem to be a work magnet these days!
I had arranged to do a very small job on Friday morning for a man living in an apartment a mere two hundred metres as the crow flies, from my house but slightly further by road. He had called the evening before explaining that he had purchased a replacement fan unit for an electric heater in his lounge and couldn’t fit it himself. I explained that I no longer undertake work of that nature as a rule, though fires are never usually problematical to repair. I agreed to do it for him, it would be easy money without any hassle. I arrived right on time and had the unit replaced in about ten minutes. He told me that the old fan unit made a noise even when it wasn’t switched on, though I couldn’t hear it. He had paid £85 for the replacement which I hasten to say did not make a noise when it was switched off. I had an idea he had imagined the fault. When I had done the job he told me that the lighting wall switches did not switch off the lights he wanted them to. It was a three-gang switch (three switches on the same plate) and the first two switches were the ones he wanted altering. A simple task which involved swapping two wires and I had it done in a minute. On returning home I asked my son, who had stopped overnight and was about to leave, if he could drop me in the Village so I could visit the bank and the chemist shop (drug store). I walked back home. It had been a dry, humid but dull morning and the forecast was for rain in the afternoon so I decided to mow the lawn. It was just about due for another cut and it was just as well that I did it because we had torrential downpours after lunch. I thought that would be the end of my working week but I received a call later in the afternoon from an elderly lady who was trying to explain that she had lost all power to her power outlets. She apologised for her garbled speech explaining that she had a stroke some years ago which had left her that way. ‘No need to apologise’ I said and I drove there immediately. She had two small dogs that barked incessantly whilst I was there and the smaller of them was very aggressive too. It was all she could do to keep them away from me whilst I was trying to figure out the problem with the power. Why oh why don’t people put their animals in isolation in a room that visitors won’t be going in? Instead of doing that she struggled to keep them quiet and out-of-the-way. In situations like this I have to be very diplomatic and patient but it really drives me mad that people don’t think there is a problem. It is difficult enough trying to work without having to contend with the bad behaviour of pets, especially barking dogs. I asked if there were any power outlets outside and was told there was one out there. When I went outside I noticed a cable clipped to the wall at low-level and it appeared damaged at one point. One of the dogs had chewed it. The dog evidently had been protected by the RCD unit on the power distribution board. I saw that the wires were not severed and in fact only the live conductor was showing bare at one small point. The cable had gotten wet in the downpour and had shorted between the live conductor and the bare earth wire. The earthing conductor within a cable is not insulated. I effected a repair and lifted the cable higher up the wall and clipped it, fitting a cover over that part which had to remain at low-level. I was paid a little extra by the lady who was grateful that I had responded so quickly.